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The Passage of Power

(The Years of Lyndon Johnson #4)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  17,452 ratings  ·  1,150 reviews
The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career—1958 to1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet ...more
Hardcover, 712 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Knopf (first published January 2012)
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Tim I would pick Master of the Senate as the strongest and it is the one I would read again if I had to pick one. It is the one with the most action, the …moreI would pick Master of the Senate as the strongest and it is the one I would read again if I had to pick one. It is the one with the most action, the one that leaves the reader most enriched. Each book, besides telling LBJ's life story, had very intense focus on a specific LBJ subject.

First Book = Johnson's personality development
Second Book = Senate campaign against Coke Stephenson
Third Book = History of the Senate.
fourth book = Aftermath of JFK assassination

I felt the Senate years, nothing could top that.(less)
Mike With all of the time Caro spends with background on LBJ's life long grasp for power, I do believe that this book can stand on it's own.…moreWith all of the time Caro spends with background on LBJ's life long grasp for power, I do believe that this book can stand on it's own.(less)

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A.J. Howard
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Since the summer 2005, when I read the previous three volumes of Caro's majestic Years of Lyndon Johnson series, I have periodically checked the internet for updates on the final volume's release. When I saw that it was available for pre-order on Amazon I loudly whooped. I kinda hope that bookstores do a midnight release so I can dress up like Sam Rayburn and stay up reading all night. I may be crazy, but doesn't that cover look pretty sexy? Yes, my name is A.J., and I'm am fully aware that I'm ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson might be the great historical project of our time. These days, publishers seem to prefer everything to be contained in one volume. Thus, even topics as grand as the Second World War get crammed into a single book. But Robert Caro cannot be contained between two covers. His legendary expansiveness requires the clearing of entire forests. His scope and breadth and novelistic detail hearken back to Gibbon, Sandburg or Foote.

The Passage of Power is the four
Paul Bryant
They said well, you love biography but you never read Robert Caro? So the very last time I was in Waterstones (when will you reopen, my oasis?) I saw they had all of Caro’s vast 4 volumes (& the world waiting for the fifth) of Lyndon Johnson, and he is my second favourite US president, such a fascinating character, so I got the first volume and jumped in and read 70 pages – it was brilliant.
And it seems that Mr Caro is the greatest of the biographers-who-hated-their-subjects. Well, he described
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, history, 2017
“President Kennedy’s eloquence was designed to make men think; President Johnson’s hammer blows are designed to make men act.”
― Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power


One of the most amazing aspects of this series is how consistently good the books are. Each one of the four books has been different and amazing. Some people might prefer Beethoven's 4th, others his 5th, others his 9th, still others his 3rd (my personal favorite). The fact remains, they are all brilliant. So too with these books. Eac
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No one alive at the time will ever forget where they were and how they heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot. I was in a grade school classroom when Sister Clemenza burst into the room, her eyes bulging with the news. Nothing could take me away from the television in the days that followed, every detail etching itself: from Cronkite choking back the sorrow at the official announcement; to Oswald, his mouth forming an "O"; to a young son's salute.

It wasn't just ten-year olds who were star-stru
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
So I started this ages ago, but I must not have been that into it at the time because I put it down in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis and didn't pick it up again for an entire year. The problem I'd been having was the one I'd had with other books in the series, which is that while I adore Robert Caro's work and am enthralled by all his descriptions of the intricate and shocking machinations of government, I find Lyndon Baines Johnson, as a person, extraordinarily dull. So for the first b ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In volume four we find out Johnson’s great skill at Senate politics does not translate to national politics. Whether due to arrogant presumptiveness, simple miscalculation or some of both, LBJ blows his chances for the 1960 presidential nomination. Caro suggests fear of failure kept LBJ from announcing earlier, running in primaries and sewing up some votes that might have stopped JFK. Not sure I see that since once JFK became the clear favorite after winning the West Virginia primary LBJ immedia ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It’s hard to believe I’ve invested so much time reading about LBJ, and I still haven’t even gotten to the 1964 election and everything after that. That will be Caro’s 5th and final book in the series, and who knows when that will come out. This book covers the period from the 1960 election to about July 1964 – enough time after JFK’s assassination to cover the transitionary period, ending with the triumph of passing the Civil Rights bill.

Caro makes a strong case that LBJ’s performance during th
James Thane
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The description accompanying this title very accurately summarizes the contents of this volume in Robert A. Caro's brilliant biography of LBJ, and so there's no point in repeating all of that here. Like the earlier volumes, this is an epic work: solidly researched, beautifully written, and very gripping, even though most readers will be well aware of the general history covered here. In particular, the chapters surrounding the day on which John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas capture in gr ...more
Justin Matthews
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Come now Johnson and Caro, that duo with whom I have now spent so many hours (years in literary time!), in this fourth and, God willing, penultimate volume of the Years of Lyndon Johnson. The Passage of Power is excellent, of course; if you've read the first three books you wouldn't expect anything less. Caro is just such a terrific writer, and the Years and events that fill them so fascinating, that you can't but feel a little sad at the prospect of not having another doorstopper to immediately ...more
Whew! Four down; one to go.
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing

“The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” is the fourth (and most recently published) volume in Robert Caro’s series covering the life of Lyndon B. Johnson. Caro is a former investigative reporter and the author of two Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies. He is currently working on the fifth – and presumably final – volume in his LBJ series.

Published in 2012, “The Passage of Power” covers roughly a half-dozen years: from Johnson’s campaign for the
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have been reading Robert Caro's four extensive volumes about the life of Lyndon B Johnson over the past two years. The experience has been a master class in politics, power, the workings of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the interaction between the Executive and Legislative Branches, and 20th century history up to 1964.

The Passage of Power begins with LBJ, still in his role as the most powerful Senate leader possibly ever, trying to decide if he will run for President in the 19
Patrick Brown
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2012
Robert Caro began researching this series of books in 1976, the year I was born. The scope and ambition of these books do more than cast long shadows, they fill the sky. Their success rests on several factors, including exhaustive research, but ultimately, they are so impressive primarily because their author is as good a storyteller as any novelist working today.

Caro is the unrivaled master of weaving the minutia into a grand tapestry. He never fails to set the historical stage for each moment
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, audiobook
Caro continues to outdo himself in the most recent volume of the LBJ biography. He has set the scene for a powerful conclusion, the elected presidency of 1964-68. I was so enthralled by all that came from this volume, as it not only covers some very powerful times (1960 lead up to the Democratic convention and subsequent VP selection, life as the VP, assassination of JFK, and finishing the JFK presidency as POTUS), but also does so in a very powerful and behind-the-scenes way. There is so much i ...more
Frank Stein
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing

This book, which takes Lyndon Johnson from the campaign of 1960, through his Vice Presidential years, and up to the first few months of his presidency, deserves a place among Caro's best works.

There are a few things that are infuriating in this book. Again and again the reader is treated to reminders that Johnson was a maniacal worker, and quotes like "He didn't want to be like Daddy." These are not only repeated ad nausem in this book, but were also repeated ad nausem in the three previous John
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Caro's volumes on the years of Lyndon Johnson have brought the enigmatic, misunderstood and nearly forgotten 36th president back into his rightful spot as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.

The scope of this book is much more narrow than the previous volumes, confining itself to LBJ's endless humiliations as John Kennedy's vice president, his sudden ascension to power through Kennedy's death and Johnson's astonishing grasp of control over the next few months.

Caro constantly apologizes
Brian Eshleman
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an intriguing and at times captivating work. The author's interest in the principles of leadership which drew him to study LBJ come through, but the human drama of the shift between JFK's administration and Johnson's is such poignant material that the reader never feels lectured to or that the points of leadership are being ripped out of context. ...more
David Corleto-Bales
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, 2013
Volume 4 in Caro's lengthy biography of Lyndon Johnson that I originally began, (Vol. 1) in 1982. This one deals with the election of 1960, and the intrigue and travails of LBJ as he attempts to wrest the nomination from John F. Kennedy and fails, and then accepts the nomination for vice president in a gamble, going from the most important Democrat in the country as the greatest Senate majority leader in history to a powerless second-in-command. Miserable as second banana, Johnson is propelled i ...more
Porter Broyles
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Robert Caro is the authority when it comes to LBJ.

Grover Gardner is arguably the best narrator out there.

This book was phenomenal.

The book covers LBJ as he languished as the Vice President for an administration that didn't trust him. He tried to grasp at power, but was rebuffed at every turn.

His career was coming to a crashing end. Rumors were such that JFK was probably going to replace him in 1964. This leaving LBJ isolated. He knew that he couldn't hope to run in 68 as Bobby would be primed
Jeanne Thornton
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So I started this the same day I finished "Master of the Senate," figuring I'd just read the introduction and mayyybe first couple of pages proper to whet my appetite for the thing over the course of the next few weeks. Instead I stayed up late reading the first 400 pages and then more every opportunity I got. The leisurely pace of Master of the Senate is pretty much gone; here we see Johnson vs Kennedy in the 1960 primary, a race through the three early years of the Kennedy administration in wh ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have read the first three books in this series and am looking forward to this one. If it is anything like the first books, it should be LONG and informative about the darker side of LBJ. Could anyone be as power hungry as he? I will most likely purchase this book as I have purchase the first three by Caro and I collect presidential biographies.
Alex O'Connor
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, deep dive look in the Kennedy's, LBJ's Vice Presidency, the Civil Rights act of 64, and Camelot as a whole. The section detailing JFK's assassination from the eyes of LBJ may have been the most nerve-racking, masterful portrayal of the event I have ever seen. ...more
Amanda Linehan
Mar 29, 2012 marked it as to-read
Excerpt from this book on the Kennedy assassination through Johnson's eyes appeared in this week's New Yorker -- could NOT put it down. ...more
Wilson Tomba
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Best political biography I've ever read. Sincerely hope Caro gets to finish this series. ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Over thirty years have passed since the publication of The Path to Power, the first of what Robert Caro envisioned would be a three-volume biography of America’s 36th president. This, his fourth volume, ends in the first months of his presidency, and his assertion that this is the penultimate volume is a little hard to swallow given the thoroughness he has covered Johnson’s life even before reaching his time in the White House (with a third of this book’s 700+ pages chronicling just the first fo ...more
George Anders
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lyndon Johnson gets older in this fourth installment of Robert Caro's epic presidential biography and so too -- unfortunately -- does the author. The early chapters are masterful. But Caro's story-telling and analysis begins to sputter in rather worrisome ways as the book builds to its dual climax of the Kennedy assassination and Johnson's rapid command of the presidency. I missed the firm command of his material that Caro showed in his earlier books. The master is 76 years old now, and for all ...more
Mal Warwick
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Robert Caro's Masterful Portrait of Lyndon Johnson's Early Days as President

There are very few figures in history worthy of multi-volume biographies, much less one that runs to five books, the first four of which alone total nearly 3,600 pages. However, Robert Caro proves conclusively that his subject, President Lyndon Johnson, is fully deserving of the attention. One of the towering figures of the 20th Century, Johnson’s extraordinarily complex personality and the indelible imprint he left on
The last episode of season one of House of Cards ends with Francis J. Underwood (FU) sitting at his desk in his cabinet conspiring with the audience in the style of Richard III, and on the table there is a book lying. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV by Robert A. Caro. For someone watching the show that is familiar with Lyndon Johnson’s bio, the parallels between him and the protagonist in House of Cards, played by Kevin Spacey, are obvious. Both FU and LBJ are savvy p ...more
Josh Friedlander
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-history
Probably the book in the series with the widest appeal, and it summarises the salient facts from the others where necessary. LBJ is at his most sympathetic in parts of this book, but also occasionally at his worst: the corruption, the humiliation of subordinates, the ruthlessness. Covers Johnson's decision to become VP, which seemed to be a huge misstep (VPs have basically no power), but ended up working out pretty well for well as Kennedy's rise, the RFK-LBJ mutual hatred, Dallas, the ...more
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A former investigative reporter for Newsday, Robert Caro is the author of The Power Broker (1974), a biography of the urban planner Robert Moses which he won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. President Obama said that he read the biography when he was 22 years old and that the book "mesmerized" him. Obama said, "I'm sure it helped to shape how I think about politics."

Caro has also written four biographies

Other books in the series

The Years of Lyndon Johnson (4 books)
  • The Path to Power
  • Means of Ascent
  • Master of the Senate

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